At the end of the Heirs of Numenor deluxe box, is quite a difficult quest, The Siege of Cair Andros. This quest continues the Battle and Siege questing theme in this box, and the ability to remove quest stages from the deck. However, it is much more difficult than the previous two. It could be quick and easy if you’re luck, but it could just absolutely wreck you if you are unable to remove some quest stages. There are quite a few punishing treacheries, some insanely-high attack enemies, and Siege questing is just difficult in general. But, I think this deck is up to the task!
This quest has some effects that punish you for playing outside of mono-sphere decks, and particularly, some that punish you for not playing mono-Tactics. The idea of playing mono-Tactics early in the game’s life was laughable, and if you failed to remove one of the quest stages from this deck, with old mono-Tactics, you were pretty well auto-losing at that point. But, Tactics is really necessary in this quest, regardless. So, I like Tactics Aragorn here, for that reason, but also because it makes enemies easier to kill in this quest, and with Archery, high attack values, and lots of extra Shadow cards, you don’t want enemies to stick around for very long.
For this quest, Aragorn’s balanced stats make him an okay contributor to Siege questing, and a good Battle questing character. But, I’d prefer he stay ready to attack. For that purpose, I’m using a new card for the first time, the Warrior Sword. The attachment gives you +1 attack for each engaged enemy, to a maximum of 3. Now, we don’t want enemies to stay engaged for long, so it isn’t going to reach a high attack, but sometimes there are enemies you can’t kill in one go. So, it’s likely he gets a 5 attack, but higher than that is doubtful. There are some enemies that have a low attack, so you could keep them around to have a higher attack for the stronger enemies. The only other attachment I would give to Aragorn in this deck is Unexpected Courage, for multiple attacks, or for Battle questing and attacking.
With Tactics being very helpful in this quest, I wanted another Tactics hero, and Mablung felt like a great choice. With balanced stats, and the ability to gain an extra resource, I really like including him here, since I can spend resources and still gain 1 for a Feint in combat, possibly. But, it also helps play some more expensive allies, like Legolas. Mablung helps to make up for the fact that I decided against using mono-Tactics at the last minute!
Spirit Beregond returns and is a premier Siege questing character. Also, because there are some really nasty Treacheries in this quest, I decided that having Spirit was well-worth it for A Test of Will, Unexpected Courage, and Hasty Stroke. Also, while I think Siege questing is much more difficult for a single player than Battle questing, the readying with Unexpected Courage is so helpful. This does make Beregond vulnerable to The Master’s Malice, but I’ve included Gondorian Discipline to help counter that effect, as well.
Of course, Beregond is going to get the Gondorian Shield as soon as possible, giving him 6 defense, which is incredible for Siege questing, and of course, defending. His ability to lower my threat by 1 when he takes no damage while defending an attack is good to mitigate some Doomed effects in the Encounter Deck.
A final note about the supporting hero selection, that relates more to the narrative than game mechanics, is that I wanted to still include a Gondorian Ranger character, like Mablung, and also, a strong defender character, like Beregond, to still thematically represent Celador, and also to represent a new character in the narrative, Tiror. While the first two narrative chapters of this cycle mention Tiror, he has not appeared yet, but he is the defender of Cair Andros, so Beregond will represent him nicely.
Moving on to the allies, not only are the Eagle allies a great option in this quest, for cheap stats, but I also wanted to include them to fit the theme of “Thorongil,” Aragorn’s alias in Gondor. This is an example of me subtly influencing the narrative a bit. The Winged Guardian and Vassal of the Windlord are the staple Eagle allies here. They are going to be questing allies, too, for Siege and Battle, so that will get around their discard effects. However, later in the quest, when we hope to be Battle questing the rest of the way, the Winged Guardians do become solid defenders, as usual.
For unique Eagles, I included Meneldor and Gwaihir. I realized that Meneldor can be extremely helpful in placing progress on Battleground locations, especially The Banks, which I want to save without fail. Meneldor also has good attack stats, and can soak up a little Archery as well. Gwaihir is really a “win more” card in this deck, but, later if I have the resources, dropping him into play, and possibly bringing back Meneldor, or a non-unique Eagle ally, is very strong. But, since he’s non-essential, I only have 2 copies of him.
For the non-Eagle allies, Legolas is always a great inclusion any time I play Tactics. He’s great to Battle quest, but primarily great to attack and help me draw cards. The Defender of Rammas, like the Winged Guardian, is an essential ally for Siege questing. Treebeard is the final ally, and is nice to have for attacking, defending, or questing with his great stats and readying.
Opening Hand and Strategy
This quest begins with three Battleground locations in play, and I must save them to remove quest stages from the deck, and make the final stage easier. The first priority is The Banks, since it is the easiest for the enemy to overrun. Because these locations amount to 6 threat in the staging area, it is essential to see a Defender of Rammas or a Winged Guardian in my opening hand. I will mulligan no matter what if I don’t see one of these two cards. Also, I would prefer to have a Gondorian Shield in my opening hand, as well as some form of draw, like The Eagles Are Coming, or Ancient Mathom. A Test of Will is always nice to see early.
For the overall quest strategy, my goal for this is to save The Banks first. With Meneldor, I could drop 2 out of 3 progress on it by turn 2, if I’m lucky. Meneldor’s Flight is a great card to get his effect more than once, if I have the resources to play him again. The second location I try to save is The Citadel. I am not sure what other players’ strategies are for the Battlegrounds, but I like to save this one for a few reasons. It is the highest threat location, so it is always targeted last by effects that damage Battleground locations. Also, removing 3 threat from the staging area is always nice. Also, I don’t like Stage 4 of the quest deck, because it makes Siege questing even more difficult by adding 5 Threat to the staging area. If I lose out on saving The Approach, I won’t be upset because generally, I find Battle questing to be much easier.
If I’m lucky, I can progress through the quest rather quickly. But, if the Encounter Deck doesn’t go my way, I could be in for a long, punishing defense. I never feel bad starting over on this quest, because it can really be insane, as the Shadow cards can multiply so quickly, and enemies can really smash the Battleground locations. For example, seeing a Battering Ram on turn 2, while the Banks is the active location, will pretty much end the game for me. Also, The Power of Mordor can absolutely annihilate you if you see it while Battlegrounds are in the staging area. To add insult to injury, it can’t be canceled, either.